Foods Standards Agency funded allergy research projects 2013
Michelle Berriedale-Johnson reports
The Food Standards Agency's annual presentation focused this year on their work in the field of food allergy, not just in terms of allergen labelling but on the various research projects which they either partially or totally fund.
The keynote speech was given by Professor Ian Kimber, Professor of Toxicology at the Faculty of Life Sciences at the University of Manchester, and before discussing the individual projects Professor Kimber made a number of general points:
• Allergy is an adverse effect from an inappropriate immune response to specific proteins.
Why has the incidence of allergy grown so fast in the last 60 years?
• Hygiene hypothesis – that, because we have become so 'clean' and hygiene obsessed our immune systems have not had a chance to learn 'tolerance' as they never encounter bacteria etc.
Root of exposure
• Why do some children react on their first ingestion of peanut?
Conditions of exposure
• How potent is the allergen? Peanut proteins for example are very potent whereas lettuce proteins are quite weak.
Current FSA funded or partially funded research includes:
EAT (Enquiring about Tolerance) which is trying to discover whether the early introduction of allergenic foods alongside continued breastfeeding reduces the incidence of food allergy.
LEAP (Learning Early About Peanuts) is trying to find out whether introducing peanuts at an early age to highly atopic children at risk of peanut allergy may prevent the development of the allergy.
The BASELINE study which is trying to determine whether an abnormal skin barrier function, which may be genetically determined, can predate or predict food allergy sensitisation.
Allergy thresholds. The ongoing efforts to establish thresholds for allergenic ingredients at which the majority of seriously allergic people will not react.
Allergens in prepacked food. Surveys to establish how accurate in terms of labelling a range of foods on the market actually is.
The TRACE study is aiming to discover how much peanut is needed to cause a reaction in adults and whether this is affected by extrinsic stress factors, sleep deprivation and exercise.
Future research projects will include:
• Adult allergy. The rate of allergy amongst children over the last 30 years has been significantly higher than that among adults – but many of those children have now grown up. How had that changed the incidence of allergy in adults and indeed, the nature of the allergy.
• Food intolerance as opposed to allergy.
First published September 2013
• If this article was of interest you will find many other articles on unlikely allergies and allergy connections here – and links to many relevant research studies here.